Laurie Evans' confidence proves well-founded with defining BBL innings
He arrived with Scorchers in deep trouble and produced one of the innings of the season
Laurie Evans and Adam Voges shared a quiet moment after Perth Scorchers had won the BBL final in emphatic fashion.
Evans was basking in the glory of his player of the match performance, having struck 76 not out from 41 balls, the highest score by a No. 6 in BBL history, to rescue Scorchers from a perilous position at 4 for 25 and post a winning total against Sydney Sixers.
"I said, 'how many finals have you played in?'" Voges recalled with a smile. "He said, 'I've played in five.' I left it at that and then he goes, 'And I've been man of the match in three of them.' So I think he was quietly confident that he was going to be able to have an impact. And he certainly did that."
While Evans' memory may be a little hazy on the awards (it was his third if a quarter-final against Durham is included) it was his third half-century in five T20 deciders. He was player of the match in Warwickshire's T20 Blast title in 2014. He also made 52 for Sussex in a losing T20 Blast final against Worcestershire in 2018. He knows how to handle finals pressure and entering with his side in trouble did not faze him.
"It's a do or die game," Evans said after his performance. "So you come out and you try and go down swinging if you can. But you try and add a little bit of experience that I've got, a bit of skill, and try and put that all together into an innings. So I'm just lucky it went my way today.
"Coming in, in those situations with overs to go, it's just about managing risk, managing my game, managing their game, and trying to figure out a game plan. And sometimes in the biggest games, it's the easiest, because it's just right there in front of you.
"When you're an overseas player, it's not necessarily about the amount of runs, it's about impact on a game. All I was trying to think coming into this tournament is how I can have the biggest impact possible in situations, not necessarily be the leading run-scorer at the end of the competition with the highest average. It's all about strike rates, it's all about impact."
It was an extraordinary performance from Evans on a number of fronts. Firstly, he was playing with a broken toe that he suffered on January 14 against Adelaide Strikers. It didn't affect his ball-striking in any way as he produced some of the cleanest and most eye-catching stroke play of the tournament with two sublime sixes over cover.
Over Christmas, I've got a young two-year-old boy, I missed his birthday. I missed my wife's birthday. It's not niceLaurie Evans on the challenges of being away for a long time
But it did cause him enormous pain while running, and he was made to do plenty with one of the best runners in the BBL in Ashton Turner. The pair ran nine twos and a three, including a brace in each of their nine overs together, to keep the run-rate up while minimising risk.
"My toe is throbbing right now," Evans said. "There was a period where AT [Turner] was calling, 'two two two' and I was like, 'no, it hurts too much'. We got it injected before the game, got it topped up halfway through. Yeah, I'm not looking forward to tomorrow but hopefully, the hangover will see me through.
"AT and I formed a really good relationship I think. We love batting together. He pushes me to run twos almost every ball so I was pretty knackered towards the end there. But I actually love playing with him. We trade off really well. He likes to hit as straight as possible. I like to hit sort of square if I can and straight at the end."
Evans' toe was so bad he nearly didn't play in the finals. Scorchers selection committee had a long discussion about whether they should play Aaron Hardie instead of Evans given his injury.
"We weren't sure whether he was going to get up or not," Voges said. "It was a really tough decision. In the end, we went for the experience."
It was the second time Scorchers' hierarchy had backed Evans over local WA talent. There were eyebrows raised among some players when the relatively unknown Evans was signed as their overseas, having had the superstar English duo of Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy last year. Evans had spent an Australian summer playing grade cricket in Perth at University Cricket Club with Ashton Agar in 2014-15 for relatively modest returns.
It was a brave call by Scorchers list management team led by WBBL and BBL title-winning general manager Kade Harvey and list consultant Simon Katich.
"We felt like we wanted some more finishing power," Voges said. "And that's where Laurie came in. Ashton Agar had played with him over in England, and his numbers have been excellent over the last couple of years and he brings that experience.
"We'd spoken to a few people in England about him. We look at the numbers, we look at the footage, you take a punt. You don't actually really know. And obviously the longer Laurie's been out here, the more we've learned about him, the more we've learned about his game, and how he goes about it and he's actually really suited for these types of wickets. As the tournament went on, he's got better and better. He's played a couple of match-winning innings now and he saved his best for tonight."
Voges and Evans have now formed a bond for life as Evans helped hand his coach his first BBL title. It was a repayment for the support Voges had given him throughout a difficult period in Australia away from his family after they were unable to travel due to Covid issues.
"Horrible, to be honest," Evans said of being separated from his family. "Over Christmas, I've got a young two-year-old boy, I missed his birthday. I missed my wife's birthday. It's not nice. But the guys have just been outstanding. Adam is incredible. A couple of tears in airports and things like that, getting some bad news about them not coming over, and he was right there next to me."
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo